THE HWSETA LAUNCHES VETERINARY SCIENCE CAREER AWARENESS PROGRAMME TO EDUCATE, TRAIN, MENTOR AND GENERATE AWARENESS FOR TRANSFORMATION OF THE VETERINARY PROFESSIONS.
On 9 May 2022, the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority (HWSETA) announced the launch of its Veterinary Career Guidance Awareness Programme. An initiative designed to address the transformation and critical skills shortage that exists within the South African veterinary sector. Given the fact that the international norm is to have between 200 and 400 vets per million of a country’s population, while South Africa only has around 60 to 70 vets per million this initiative couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
Not only is there a shortage of veterinarians, but there is also a shortage of para veterinary professionals, such as veterinary nurses, animal health technicians and veterinary technologists that are needed to service the industry. As a result, the HWSETA in partnership with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) will be travelling to four provinces, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga, Free State and Limpopo – visiting schools in rural areas in an effort to encourage more learners to consider a career in veterinary services. During these visits, learners will be given the opportunity to experience the various veterinary careers in action through a mobile veterinary clinic. They will also get a chance to engage with industry professionals who will be there as guest speakers during the visits.
Mr Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister of DHET addressed the issue of few learners matriculating with mathematics core and sciences subjects, which then limits their career opportunities in related industries. He also highlighted the transformation concern by adding, “Why is it that learners with good results in mathematics and sciences, especially black young people, are not entering the veterinary sciences career path? Is it about misplaced perceptions of the veterinary sciences? It could also be about access to information and the myth that this profession is one that is reserved for young white people. We must work together to correct this wrongly held perception.”
HWSETA’s career guidance awareness programme is part of a broader campaign, “Breaking Barriers – Encouraging Black Youth to Take Up Veterinary Professions.” In her address, the Chairperson of the HWSETA Board, Dr Nomfundo Mnisi echoed the Minister’s concern about transformation. “To give you an indication of the lack of transformation, the University of Pretoria produces around 160 veterinarians each year and of that number only around 14 are students of colour. HWSETA, together with the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, is committed to addressing this concerning issue.” Dr Mnisi said.
The HWSETA then announced that they would be awarding full-time bursaries to deserving young people that will aid them in furthering their studies within the veterinary sciences. In addition, all students of colour who are accepted to study Veterinary Science and Veterinary Nursing at the University of Pretoria in 2023, by 30 June this year, will also receive bursaries from the HWSETA.
Dr Mnisi believes that it is important to reach out to students in rural communities because awareness about animal health is limited in those areas. She noted that this is due to the veterinary sector not being widely known across all sectors of society. “Animal health awareness is especially poor in rural areas. It is important to create awareness around the concept of ‘one health’ which incorporates human health, animal health and the health of the environment.” She added.
As a result, to inspire more learners in these targeted communities to pursue a career in the veterinary sector, high school learners, from the four provinces, who meet entry criteria into the faculty of Veterinary Science and have a keen interest will also be awarded bursaries. The HWSETA understands that it will not be an easy feat to address the skills shortage in the veterinary sector. It will require a concerted effort by all sectors to educate, train, mentor and generate awareness about this industry if we hope to transform and develop the veterinary industry in our country.
The HWSETA wishes to encourage all individuals, who meet the criteria to be accepted into the veterinary and para-veterinary faculties at the University of Pretoria, to submit their applications for the 2023 school year by 30 June 2022. In so doing, they will be eligible for one of the fully-funded bursaries that are on offer from the HWSETA.